Mangan's got the Meds

Dan Mangan, Hayden and Astral Swans bring sweet tunes to the Cohn on Wednesday

Arts and Crafts have assembled a tour of Canada’s finest bearded musicians. Vancouver’s Dan Mangan and Blacksmith, Calgary’s Astral Swans, and Toronto’s Hayden are scruffily heading across the country to perform at the Rebecca Cohn February 18.

Multiple Juno Award winner and twice listed Polaris Music Prize listed nominee Mangan has transformed his solo moniker to become Dan Mangan and Blacksmith, a departure from being the nice guy, heart-on-sleeve singer-songwriter. Club Meds is an epic album of vastness, layered instrumentation, and rich production.

“It’s interesting putting out your fourth record. People have an idea,” says Mangan. “There will be listeners who loved the old records, and some are going to feel alienated. But people who liked those early records probably liked them because I was doing what was honest in my gut, and this is how the new record feels.”

Club Meds is an 11-track offering of musical exploration, an uncharted landscape of instrumentation and experimentation. Songs like “Offred,” “Pretty Good Joke,” and “Forgetery,” are deeply sophisticated, intricate and harrowing. The first single from Club Meds, “Vessel,” is an intense call-to-arms, and evokes an arresting power. Club Meds is Mangan’s sonic shift, and best lyrics yet.

“I took a long time with the words. Some of these songs I was thinking about changing the lyrics for six months or a year,” he says. “There was a real incubation process by the time we finished them. I don’t feel like it’s an attempt, it’s a finished thought, these songs are complete.”

At 31 years old, and recently a new dad, Mangan can’t help but remember his high school years, being a music obsessed teen, where he skipped class to listen to Hayden’s earlier records—The Closer I Get and Skyscraper National Park. Even Mangan can’t quite believe Hayden is opening his Canadian tour.

With over two decades of solid material, Hayden is one of Canada’s most legendary, and consistent songwriters. When Hayden releases a record, fans far and wide revel in the years, embrace nostalgia’s harvest, and welcome a timeless ritual of deep listening.

“Dan’s gonna make me feel really old on tour if he keeps talking like that,” says Hayden Desser. “Soon they’ll be saying, 'my parents used to listen to Hayden.'”

Known for his self-effacing humour, and reclusive nature, Hayden quietly announced his latest album, Hey Love, a love letter of sorts. Much like his previous releases, there’s a kinship with his last record, Us Alone. Tracks like “Troubled Times,” sparkle with its moody undertones, while the grungy, desperate pleas of, “Just Come Out,” rings with a darker, slightly 90s edge. Written at a cabin north of Toronto, and recorded at his studio, Hey Love is quintessentially Hayden.

“["Just Come Out"] is very short. Is this is a song, or a jingle? I tried to record it with the band, an instrumental section, and make it a rock song,” says Desser. “In the end, it just wasn’t right. I went back to the original, what most people would call a demo. I’ve been releasing demos for my whole career, my albums.”

Hayden and his wife Christie Greyerbiehl, who recently welcomed a second child, pulled off a miracle this past fall with Dream Serenade, an evening at Massey Hall, where Billy Talent, Feist, Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner of the National, Barenaked Ladies, Sarah Harmer, Hayden, Jason Collett and Grey Lands (Wayne Petti) performed in support of services for children with developmental disabilities, raising $75,000 for the Beverly Street School.

“It can be tough, from what me and my wife have learned. The evening was way more rewarding than releasing mope rock.”

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith w/Hayden, Astral Swans
Wednesday, February 18, doors at 7:30pm
Rebecca Cohn, 6101 University Ave

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